An interesting thread over on the old BARFCOM today turned up a few things that I found interesting. Everyone who reads this website knows who Audie Murphy is. One of , if not the most, decorated US Soldier of WW2. If there is an award for doing something, Audie received it. Including the MOH.
Audie was such a small little young fellow he had to lie about his age to get into the Army. The movie based on his autobiography was really hollywooded up. His fellow veterans said Audie was a real of a wild man. Unlike the movie, he was brave and aggressive with so much audacity that they no doubt left it out of the movie for fear average America wouldn’t believe a man really did all the things he did. While he had his problems after the war with PTSD, he was a born killer made for combat.
One of the members over at Brownells-ARF recently stopped by a museum displaying Audie’s M1 carbine used during the war. Audie LOVED the M1 carbine. That may come as a surprise to a lot of people. See, Audie didn’t have internet EXPURTS around during the big one to tell him how ineffective the M1 carbine was. So he naively went around killing Germans like it was cool using his useless carbine. He loved the so much he had some after the war and would give them away to friends.
This blog had a pretty good piece on it a few years ago. I will link you to the original website but there isn’t much need, I already gutted it for the best part.
Figure 1: Audie Murphy, the most
decorated US Soldier of WW2.
When I was a boy, I read the memoir To Hell and Back by Audie Murphy and was very impressed with his accomplishments as an infantry soldier during WW2 (Figure 1). It is a very American tale – a dirt poor teenager from family with a dead mother and missing father accomplishes amazing feats through sheer determination and force of will. He later starred in a movie version of his book that is well worth watching. I should mention that the book tells a better tale than the movie.
I recently read that the US Army had recovered his favorite rifle, which was an M1 carbine. The M1 carbine was shorter and much lighter than the infantry’s standard issue M1 Garand. The carbine was usually carried by troops who had limited space available (e.g. tankers) or who had to carry other things (e.g. radiomen, paratroopers). For example, my father was a radioman and he carried an M1 carbine. In Murphy’s case, he carried many different weapons, but appeared to prefer the M1 carbine. The story of its recovery is a testament to the power of modern database technology. The key to recovering the rifle was an interview with Murphy that provided a key piece of information – the serial number of the rifle.
Figure 2: Murphy’s M1
Carbine Serial Number.
When Murphy had the rifle, it certainly had certainly seen better days. The explosion of a nearby mortar round had damaged it, and Murphy did a field‑expedient repair on it using a wire. He continued to use the rifle, which he referred to as his “wounded carbine”. I have read that at various times Murphy had used a Thompson sub-machine gun, an M1 Garand, and the M1 carbine. He must of have really like this rifle because during a 1967 interview, Murphy mentioned its serial number, 110878 (Figure 2). Over six million of these rifles were produced during WW2, but that serial number provided a means for uniquely identifying that rifle.
The exact story of how the rifle left Murphy’s possession is unclear. It appears that Murphy was wounded by a sniper on 25-Oct-44. Thinking that the wound may send him home, Murphy gave his rifle to a sergeant who hoped that the carbine would bring that him luck. Unfortunately, most of that sergeant’s platoon was wiped out the following day. It is believed the rifle was recovered from the battlefield by the US Army, properly repaired, and put into storage. When you think of US government storage, think of a warehouse like what was shown at the end of the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (Figure 3). It seems like a miracle that this specific rifle could be pulled out of a warehouse like this, but it really happened. A person at the Center of Military History Clearinghouse at the Anniston Army Depot did a database search for that serial number, got a hit, and the rifle was found (Source).
Figure 4 shows the rifle in its museum display today. I should mention that another movie, Carbine Williams, was made that involved the M1 carbine. It is the story of a convict, Marsh Williams , who created the basic operating mechanism of the gun while serving time in a North Carolina prison. If you are curious about the four rifles he designed while in prison, see this Wikipedia paragraph.
Figure 4: Audie Murphy’s M1 Carbine in Museum Display.
Above is a picture from a museum in Norte Mexico ( AKA Texas) with Audie Murphy’s favorite war time M1, found from storage. You can see it has a bayonet lug which would not be time period correct, The gun was rebuilt after Audie’s time with it and brought up to specs seen in the Korean war era. Above it is the sniper rifle Audie took from a German sniper he personally smoked with same carbine.
Probably the best encounter that was very public at the time was this account published shortly after he returned from the war. It appeared in the Dallas Morning News, the local Newspaper on 11 December, 1946 with the following headline:
“War Hero Handy With His Fist, Hijacker Discovers”
“130-Pound Hero Fells 190-Pound Holdup Suspect”
DALLAS MORNING NEWS
DALLAS (Tex.) Dec. 11. (AP) —
Little Audie Murphy, who is World War II’s most decorated soldier, won another battle singlehanded this afternoon when he subdued a 6-foot 2-inch, 190-pounder who apparently attempted to steal his automobile.
The freckled kid from Farmersville, Tex., told the Dallas Morning News he knocked out the 25-year-old man in a rural filling station near here after a furious 10-minute battle. Murphy weighs 130 pounds and stands 5 feet 7 inches tall.
State Highway Patrolmen Everett Brandon and F. H. Jensen, who talked with the News by telephone, said they arrested the man and lodged him in the McKinney Jail. No complaint was filed immediately.
Tells of Holdup
The 20-year-old Texas hero, who won the Congressional Medal of Honor and every other U.S. combat medal in World War II, related he was driving alone when he saw a large man limping along the highway. “It was raining like the devil and I thought I would do the fellow a favor,” Audie related. “I picked him up and we drove about a mile. “Suddenly this guy jammed something into my ribs, slapped me across the mouth and said: “‘I’m the boss now. If you won’t talk, this .45 will. I can use this car.’ “I admitted that he was pretty much the boss at that point and we drove about four more miles. He told me to pull into a roadside gasoline station and stop. I did and he took the keys and instructed me to slide along the seat and get out on his side of the car.”
Decides on Fight
Audie said the man’s left hand, hidden under an old army blouse, was still jammed into his ribs when he decided to make a fight for it. He grabbed the man’s hand, struck him a blow that tumbled him from the car and on to the filling station drive.
Murphy jumped squarely on the erstwhile tough guy and started swinging.
“We fought all over the place for about 10 minutes,” Audie said. “He was a pretty big fellow, all right. I finally got him, though.”
J. M. Peters, owner of the gasoline station, ran into the drive and ordered both men offthe premises before he knew the background, Patrolman Brandon added.
Calls in Police
Audie rushed to another gasoline station a mile north to telephone the State police and upon his return found that his attacker had recovered, escaped and gone to the home of Mrs. Park Grissom, a few hundred yards distant.
The man was scuffling with Mrs. Grissom and demanding fresh clothing to replace his bloody and torn garments when Murphy and the patrolmen overpowered him again.